Two YouTubers were escorted off a flight to New York by Delta Airlines staff, according to video they shared on social media. Adam Saleh and his friend Slim Albaher were flying from London to New York today, December 21, when the alleged incident took place.
22-year-old Saleh, who lives in New York, has 2.2 million followers, and sometimes makes prank videos, documented the incident on Twitter and Periscope. Saleh said he was removed from the flight after speaking Arabic while on the phone with his mother.
“They kicked us off the plane because a lady, because a lot of people, felt uncomfortable,” Saleh said. “Delta airlines just kicked us out for speaking Arabic.” In a tweet, he wrote that he has been placed on another flight to New York, on a different airline, after being checked twice by security.
In an email statement to The FADER, Saleh's manager wrote:
Adam was travelling with his friend Slim from London - Heathrow Airport with Delta Airlines back to New York City after completing the first half of his world tour. He has been travelling to Australia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi (Just to name a few). Adam made a phone call to his mother to let her know that he will be home in the next 7-8 hours after his flight and because Adam's mum only speaks arabic, he was speaking to her in his language. Unfortunately this caused a problem amongst other passengers in the airline who got angry and started abusing him swearing and saying that they felt threatened as he was speaking a different language. The captain decided to escort him and Slim off the plane as the majority of the passengers were racist towards them, they were then spoken to by police and were put onto a different airline with Virgin and are not currently on their way back home to New York City.
Delta has since issued a statement to news outlets: “Two customers were removed from this flight and later rebooked after a disturbance in the cabin resulted in more than 20 customers expressing their discomfort. We’re conducting a full review to understand what transpired. We are taking allegations of discrimination very seriously; our culture requires treating others with respect."
A number of observers have suggested that the incident could have originated as a prank. Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Saleh’s manager denied this suggestion and said that his client always reveals his pranks. He added that the latest video was “as real as it gets.”
On his YouTube channel in 2014, Saleh characterized a prank video about racial profiling by New York police as a “social experiment.” In a revised description of the same clip, Saleh called the video a "dramatization of previous events." He wrote: “This video is not against the NYPD, it’s just an example of what we have to go through sometimes…This is to raise awareness.”
One report on Muslims kicked off flights since November 2015 indexes incidents on seven airlines, and shows Delta, American, and Southwest as repeat offenders.
The FADER has reached out to representatives for Adam Saleh and Delta for comment.